A Look Behind the Scenes at “The Addict’s Wake”
In an effort to help eradicate the stigma associated with addiction and the addiction awareness effort, Zionsville Monthly sat down with the team behind the production of a new documentary, “The Addict’s Wake,” to discuss not only the film’s purpose but to take an honest look at some of the lives profoundly affected by addiction. It is the hope of the film’s director, producers and creative team that “The Addict’s Wake” will shine a light on the nation’s number one public health crisis and the devastating “ripple effect” that addiction has on families and communities.
Zionsville resident Michael Husain is the film’s director and is an Emmy Award-winning documentary director, writer and producer. Husain is known for his help in launching the A&E documentary series “American Justice” and has created hundreds of hours of documentaries for The History Channel, HGTV, TLC, The Discovery Channel, PBS, A&E and ESPN.
Husain has been awarded a Crystal Heart at the Heartland Film Festival for his independent film “The Innocent,” which was also awarded the Jury Prize for “Best non-fiction film” at the Indianapolis International Film Festival.
The Film’s Premise
Under the picturesque rolling hills, the beautiful state parks and the unique charm of the tourist shops and eateries in Nashville, Indiana, lies terrible disease. This community is a microcosm of what is happening all across rural America. In an effort to reveal the true struggles of these communities, the director and producers have banded together to produce “The Addict’s Wake.” This documentary examines the deep scars addiction to meth and opioids leave on the user and on the community as a whole. Many people have met untimely deaths, and many are destroying their lives on a daily basis.
Husain and his executive producers, Amy Pauszek and Lisa Hall, are collaborating with law enforcement, the school system, faith-based initiatives, courts and area treatment facilities in order to obtain crucial interviews and accurate data to support the authenticity of this documentary. Husain, Pauszek and Hall were generous to share what motivated each of them to embark on an arduous and often heartbreaking journey to create this film.
At a young age, Husain knew that he wanted to be in the business of storytelling. Husain began his career in the news industry before gravitating to directing and writing documentaries. When asked what compels him to create documentaries over shorts or other film projects, he said, “When people watch a good documentary and it speaks to them, it’s generally because the storyteller [director] has done a good job of being authentic to what is happening [in the film]. I have tried to do that to the best that I can. With addiction, you have a multilayered issue. From a societal perspective, there is tremendous human cost. People are dying or being severely damaged—people and families. It’s not just the person struggling with addiction. That’s why [the film] is called ‘The Addict’s Wake.’ Behind the addict is a wake of people affected.”
Husain further explained that there is no socioeconomic divider, no racial divider and no religious divider in terms of addiction.
“One of the people in our documentary is an addict and a pastor’s son,” Husain said. “In Brown County, where the population is 15,000, they had four young men—between the ages of 25 to 30—die [from addiction related deaths] in under a 12-month period before they had reached any kind of potential. Each were from different walks of life. That was a huge wake-up call for that community. A lot of communities [throughout Indiana and the nation] have realized the enormous problem [of addiction], but there are still a number of communities that have not.”
Husain added, “If other communities can see this documentary and simply acknowledge that there is a problem, be open and communicative, then you can start to find solutions. There is no shame in talking about addiction. Americans are renowned for being innovative. We could find some really innovative solutions once more people start talking about it.”
Amy Pauszek—Executive Producer
Pauszek has worked as a key producer, publicist and actress in several feature films, shorts, TV and commercials. She attended the Toronto International Film Festival as an international programmer, is a Heartland Film President’s Award winner and is a proud member of the Truly Moving Pictures Jury. Amy was an executive producer/producer for “A Sign of the Cross,” which aired on PBS and currently is traveling across the country with her award-winning documentary short film “Grateful.” She is an award-winning freelance photographer.
“After the incredible experience I had with ‘Grateful,’ I didn’t want to jump into another project and make just any film,” Pauszek shared. “I waited over a year to think of something that I could produce that would make a difference.”
Pauszek got “the calling” after seeing a friend’s post on Facebook talking about the death of a young person lost to addiction.
“There were several hundred comments on her post,” Pauszek said. “People were asking what they could do. How can we stop these deaths from happening? Upon reading that post, I knew this was it—this local [addiction crisis] was going to be the next film. I didn’t know Lisa [Hall] prior to this Facebook post, but I saw her comments, and that compelled me to contact her through Facebook. I told her I was interested in making a documentary. Michael, Lisa and I ended up all knowing each other through previous projects or other circles. When we first met—all together—the synergy was just amazing.”
Pauszek added, “I am passionate about making films that make a difference, and I believe this film is going to be a vessel for schools, hospitals and centers, correctional facilities, churches and law enforcement. When producing a film, I visualize where it’s going and strategize how I’m going to get it out to different venues. For me, producing is about getting the story out, and that [passion] sincerely comes from my heart.”
Lisa Hall—Executive Producer
Hall is a veteran marketer for multiple products and services and also serves on the board of the Brown County Playhouse and several not-for-profit organizations. She is a graduate of Indiana University’s Business School with a Masters from Moody Bible Seminary. Lisa works with women in incarceration and has taught Creating Positive Relationships in Fishers, Westfield and Carmel School Systems. She also speaks to women’s groups and organizations. She resides in Brown County and has seen firsthand the destructive wake addiction has on her community.
“[Addiction] is the number one health issue plaguing our country,” Hall said. “In 2018, $186 billion dollars fell on federal, state and local governments in the areas of [addiction-related] death, health care, legal and other expenditures. At the time I did this research, another $214 billion dollars was projected for 2019. These costs are rising, not decreasing. In 2018, $96 billion dollars was lost in workplace productivity—nationwide. Whether people think they’re affected or not, we are all affected indirectly as consumers and taxpayers footing the bill or directly by knowing someone or a loved one who is struggling with addiction.”
Completing This Important Documentary Takes Community Support
Husain, Pauszek and Hall are actively fundraising to complete the film that is in production, but in order to finish the film to the standard that the people who have opened their lives and shared their intimate stories so that others may be spared deserve, the team needs financial support from community stakeholders and individuals who believe that this documentary can save lives and help erode the ugly stigma that manifests around addiction.
The team needs another $50,000 to $60,000 to complete the film. It will need another $50,000 for distribution of the film, but the immediate goal is to finish the film. Local folks such as Don Katz and Lynda Goeke are hosting fundraisers at their homes for “The Addict’s Wake” and helping raise awareness of the film’s purpose.
For more information on how to become a supporter of the film and to view the trailer of “The Addict’s Wake,” visit theaddictswake.com.